Wireless Speaker Kits – The End of the Dreaded Cable Clutter?
Recently more and more manufacturers have started to offer home theater systems with wireless speakers or a wireless speaker kit. From a homeowners standpoint, eliminating long speaker cable runs is certainly a big plus. Multi-channel surround sound is a fairly new phenomenon and as such many older houses are not wired for rear speakers, not to mention 7.1 systems. As such a wireless solution might be the logical conclusion. But how reliable are these wireless speaker kits in a real-world scenario and do these options really eliminate the dreaded cable clutter?
Some wireless kits, such as the LG or Rocketfish allow to connect 2 speakers to a wireless receiver unit. This eliminates the cables from the front to the back. However, still cables need to be run from the receiver to each speaker and as such the amount of cables is just reduced but not eliminated. Another wireless surround sound product comes with separate receivers for each speaker which in comparison to the other products does reduce the cable clutter, albeit not eliminate cables completely.
Will the wireless have any effect on performance? Audio quality is a main concern. In picking a wireless system, one should choose a system where (a) the transmission itself does not pick up any noise or degradation in order to maintain the audio quality and (b) the wireless amplifier itself should be a high-quality amplifier with minimal distortion. Also, the size of the wireless speaker amplifier is a consideration as the receiver should be invisible.
Another issue to consider is that in a home theater setting is that the sound to all speakers should be in sync with the video and also in sync with each speaker. Some wireless units such as the Rocketfish will introduce a delay in the signal, apparently to cope with interference. As such you should investigate how much the signal travelling to the wireless speaker will be delayed. The product however specifies a delay of less than 1 ms which should be low enough for pretty much any real-world application.
Finally, how reliable are wireless speakers and speaker kits? One of the main issues with wireless devices of any sort is interference from other devices. As more and more consumer devices go wireless, the available frequency space becomes more and more limited. Especially the 900 MHz and 2.4 GHz bands are exceptionally crowded, due to WiFi hot spots, cell phones with Bluetooth etc. Picking a system that avoids these frequency bands may be the logical choice, such as systems working at 5.8 GHz.
Aside from using a wireless speaker kit in a home theater environment, another useful application is streaming audio between different rooms of the home where wiring would be difficult to install or for outdoor applications. Just imagine being able to set up your speakers in your backyard in a matter of minutes. The possibilities are endless.